Lately, I have been listening to the Creating a Family podcast. In a recent show, they discussed the topic of writing out a plan for infertility treatment. This really resonated with me, as I (obviously) love to plan things!
Seriously though, as Ryan and I venture into the ‘fertility treatment’ world, I think it is a great idea that we first sit down and write a few things out. Seems right now, when we are clear-headed, hormone-free, and not wrapped up in the process, it is a good time to talk about some of the tough decisions and get on the same page.
For example, in a brief 30 second conversation with Ryan a few days ago, I found out that he would lean towards IVF before pursuing adoption. I had recently come to that conclusion for myself as well, although we hadn’t talked about it. As far as both of us knew, we thought the other would prefer adoption first, because that has always been how we talked about it. Funny that we each made that change individually.
So lately, I have been researching what some of these tough decisions will be and trying to get my thoughts together about how we’d approach them. Now that we’ve added IVF to the table, there are many more decisions to think about.
The following is a perfect example of why I want to think about these things ahead of time…
What do you do with ‘leftover’ frozen embryos?
In researching this, I was surprised to discover that most people did not think about this issue prior to pursuing IVF. I can understand why. At this point, you have tried for years to conceive, so not only is the thought of the procedure actually working hard to believe, you can’t even imagine that there would be embryos remaining after all is said and done.
That being said, I am trying to learn from others’ difficulties, and discuss with Ryan ahead of time how we might approach this. I consider embryos to be life, so I feel I need to have a plan for them before I ‘create’ them. As Ryan and I talk about our fertility treatment plan, I imagine we are going to set certain guidelines that will help in avoiding this situation, but should we get there anyway, I want us to be on the same page.
Here are the options available for frozen embryos, as it sits now. If you know of anything else, please pass that information along.
1. Continue having children until all embryos are gone: This is ideal, but sometimes not always an option, especially if many eggs were fertilized and children came quickly. It is not uncommon for women to have 20+ embryos in frozen storage. I hope to avoid this scenario by forming some guidelines, as mentioned above.
2. Thaw and dispose: Exactly as it sounds. The lab will thaw the embryos to room temperature for about an hour. They die on their own, and the ‘straws’ they are held in are disposed of into a biohazard waste container. Some parents collect the straws and will perhaps bury them in a special place.
3. Donating to research: In this situation, the embryos are used to try to find medical advances in a variety of fields, stem-cell research being one of the most discussed.
4. Compassionate Transfer: This is a newer idea in which the embryos are transferred to the mother without the necessary preparation for pregnancy to occur. While it might be possible that a pregnancy could result, it is very unlikely, and the embryos die inside the mother’s body.
5. Embryo adoption: This process is similar to a live adoption. ‘Donating’ parents choose a waiting couple and the adoption process flows accordingly. The adoption can be ‘open’ or ‘closed’.
6. Store indefinitely: Couples pay the storage fee each year, and leave embryos as is. Put more bluntly, this is deciding not to decide. At some point, the parents would pass away, leaving the next generation to decide what to do with these embryos at that time.
There are a couple options that sound okay and some I’d never do. This is why it is so important to talk about this ahead of time. I’ve heard women talk about the decisions they made ‘in the heat of the moment’, that they later regret. For example, one mother spoke of agreeing to fertilize all 30 eggs that were retrieved during her 'fresh' IVF cycle. She was desperate to begin her family, and without stopping to think about it, she simply went according to her doctor's recommendation. Four children later, she sat wondering what to do with the 23 embryos that remained.
Although I can’t guarantee that I won’t end up making spontaneous and emotional decisions at some point, I’d like to prevent it as much as possible by facing these questions now. I have a few other tough issues that I’m researching (minimal stimulation for IUIs, “natural” IVF cycles, etc). Through these discussions with Ryan and a lot of prayer, I hope to have a basic plan for how we’d like our treatment might flow by our May doctor’s appointment.